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Transylvania literature class goes back to high school for book discussion

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Students at Transylvania enrolled in Amy Maupin’s Literature for Young Adults class spent a recent afternoon discussing the award-winning novel “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas with high schoolers from Frederick Douglass in Lexington.

“We were able to have open, honest conversations about questions and topics that allowed us to learn from the Frederick Douglass students and hopefully, they learned from us as well,” said Olivia Beutel, a Transy senior who participated in the discussion.

“Young adult literature tackles many important and relevant topics for adolescents. The use of story provides an effective — as well as an affective — entry point for talking about complex and difficult subjects,” Maupin, an associate professor of education, explained.

The afternoon discussion was the result of a collaboration between Maupin, FDHS speech and drama teacher Jason Meenach and the school’s library media specialist, Kelli Reno.

“Some of the students who participated are in Mr. Meenach’s classes, while others were staying after school for different events and were invited to join us. The result was a truly diverse and authentic group of students, who represent our full demographic spectrum. It was truly wonderful to hear our students, mainly freshmen and sophomores, sharing their real-life experiences around policing, social activism and code switching with this group of Transy students,” Reno shared.

According to Maupin, the high school and college students talked about the book’s depiction of racism, including peer microaggressions and racial profiling in law enforcement. “The conversations were especially poignant when students identified with particular characters in the novel and expressed empathy and concern for their experiences,” she said.

“The conversations prompted by the book and movie adaptation allowed us to get a better understanding of how some of these students are affected by the topics of the book in their everyday lives and in general,” Beutel said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to participate outside of the Transylvania community and learn from students who are reading the novel around the same age as the protagonist, Starr, and get their thoughts and opinions on recent young adult literature and what is happening in our country.”

Reno said the unscripted, authentic dialogue that resulted from the discussion was beneficial for both groups participating. “Our students engaged with college students and Dr. Maupin to understand a bit more about what college academics look like. It is my hope that they connected with and saw pieces of themselves in the visiting students — and perhaps also saw themselves as future college students as a result of those interactions,” Reno said.